India again went for the greatest voting exercise in the world, which went on for a month and result was as expected, India gave its mandate to Modi led BJP government, but surprisingly with a margin which was even bigger than the previous election.
Credit goes to some of the brilliant moves and policies of the last Modi government, like successfully implementing a sleepy GST bill, the Jan Dhan yojna which lead to more than 90% of Indians (around a billion people) getting into the formal economy, the Direct Benefit Transfer introduced under various schemes like LPG subsidy, MGNREGA etc. This led to reduction in corruption to a certain extent, which was even acknowledged by the World Bank etc.
A lot of credit also goes to the proactive foreign policy of the government, which not only benefited the nation but also brought India into the big league on the global stage.
This is a series of three articles where we will explore the hits and misses of Indian foreign policies over the last five years and how it has benefited the nation. Thereafter we will discuss some measure that the current establishment should to take to help India reach its rightful place on the global stage.
The Big Hits
Modi government even at the state level had been very instrumental in getting foreign investment and building relations with foreign states, Vibrant Gujarat summit is a great example of that and he brought the same intensity to the office of Prime Minister.
Example of this proactiveness is seen during the Indian cabinet swearing-in ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, where all the SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation) nations were invited, which gave a firm message to the world and to our neighborhood that for this government ‘Neighbours comes first ‘
The Neighbour First Policy
Biggest complain that our South Asian partners had with us over the years is that India doesn’t pay enough attention to its own backyard and rightly so
India since independence has focused more on global affairs then on the affairs of its surroundings, Non-alignment Movement is a shining example of that.
Though successive government since Narsimha Rao’s in 1991 has looked to transform this image with policies such as Look East policy, Gujral Doctrine of 1997 etc. but energy to these efforts was provided by the Modi administration when he changed the framework of Look East to Act East and introduced the policy of Neighbour First both in speech and spirit.
We saw this Neighbour first policy into implementation when the Indian Prime Minister made his first official foreign visit to Bhutan thereby emphasizing on regional co-operation before global co-operation.
It was just a trailer of what we were going to achieve in the next five years and the momentum just picked up from there.
After that many more state visits were made and a lot of agreements were entered with all our neighbors such as the long pending Land Boundary agreement was signed with Bangladesh which solved the problem that British created via Radcliff Line, Delhi – Kathmandu bus services was started, India- Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway project was inaugurated in 2016 to enhance connectivity.
Also Line of Credit ‘Soft Loans‘ worth Billions of dollars were disbursed, many infrastructural projects were taken up, of which some of them were for free like building of Afghanistan Parliament.
All these moves were in n true spirit of “Sabka sath, Sabka Vikas”
But the greatest gift by India to its neighbours was the launch of ‘The South Asian Satellite’ which was said to be the brain child of Modi himself.
This move not only increased our goodwill amongst our neighbors but also raised our stature as a regional power in the eyes of the world.
Though maintaining good relations with neighbors is utmost important for any country, but equally important is to maintain good relations with the world at large and Modi administration took care of its global relation with an equal swag.
India and its Global Relations.
Be it the relations with US, China, Russia or The Middle East or for that matter Latin America every relation was given a due importance.
India & US
Modi in his very first year of Prime Ministership made a state visit to the US.
This opportunity was grabbed with both hands by this administration to leave a mark of its foreign policy objective on the world.
The greatest highlight of this visit was the world famous speech at THE MADISON SQUARE GARDEN in New York and the famous dialogue of Star Wars “May the force be with you” at the Central Park.
The speech at The Madison Square was a huge hit around the globe because there are very few artists, leave alone politicians who can fill the stadium to its full capacity and Modi proved that he is one of those rare personality.
Though the real objective of this move was to use the strength of our influential but to an extent neglected diaspora living in the US, to mold the policies of US government in favor of India.
This in itself was the first time that an Indian politician was talking straight to the common people of the diaspora
This speech is still remembered as a master stroke by many foreign policy pundits, as after that the diaspora gained a lot of confidence and the US Congress and lawmakers alike started looking favorably towards India and Indians.
That’s not all, there were many substantive agreements signed with the US in the last 5 years.
Prominent amongst those were COMCASA (Communication Capability and Security Agreement) and LEMOA (Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement) which are two of the four foundational agreement US signs with its closest allies. These agreements are important because it facilitates inter-operability between the two militaries and also is a pre-requisite to purchase high-end technology from the US like the Howitzer and Guardian Drones
In layman language India has now joined the small but elite group of nations which are eligible to purchase high end armed drones and missile technology form the US, which will not only strengthen our attacking capability but also deter our adversaries.
India was also given the status of Major Defense Partner (A term specifically created for India) it means that US will have a defense ties with India at par with its NATO allies which is considered to be a privilege as US is virtually guaranteeing the supply of its latest defense technologies without any roadblocks.
There are various examples of the strong ties that Modi was able to establish with US, one of which is the recent adventure by IAF on Pakistan based terrorist camps in Balakot, was not criticized by the US (which is the general norm) but instead India was encouraged and Pakistan was warned against such provocations.
Also the memorable visit by President Barak Obama to Indian Republic day celebrations ( First by a sitting US President).
Due of this proactiveness in foreign policy, US used its diplomatic capital to get India admitted into three out of four export control regimes namely MTCR (Missile technology control regime), Australia Group (Control regime for chemical and bio-technology that could be weaponized) and Wassenaar arrangement (Control regime for conventional arms and dual use technology)
Being part of these multilateral agreements will help us to procure and trade in modern technology freely without any restrictions and curtailment with the member countries of these agreements. An example of benefit of being member such treaty is the recent agreement between India and Russia to enhance the capacity of BrahMos a Supersonic Cruise Missile beyond 300 Km radius.
It is the first time in history that a country which is not part of the Non-Proliferation treaty was admitted to these elite groups
Apart from Defense, relations has also progressed in other fields during the first term of Modi. Be it the economic relations which lead to increase in our bilateral trade from $104 billion in 2014 to $142 billion in 2018
Setting up of 2+2 dialogue mechanism in which both Foreign and Defense ministers of both the nations will meet and discuss the issues which affects them, or be it getting special exemptions from the US to import oil from Iran and to make huge investment to the tunes of billions on Chabahar port of Iran.
Greatest part of this relation is that it is bi-partisan, i.e. both democrats and republicans are in favor of good relations with India and as a mark of respect to this special relation US changed the name of Asia-Pacific region to Indo-Pacific region in its policy documents and changed the name of its Pacific command to Indo-Pacific command.
Highlight of this improved relation is the inflow of FDI (Foreign Domestic Investments) from US based companies into India, be it Apple setting up factory for the first time in India or the huge investment poured into India by Google, Amazon and recently by Walmart, even offer made by Lockheed Martin to move its entire production base of F-16 to India stands out as a testimony of the great bilateral ties.
This all has become possible only because of the strong ties Modi establishment has been able to cultivate with The US.
In the second article we will explore India’s relation with other part of the world, prominent among them will be the relations with Russia, Pakistan and China. Further article will also discuss few hiccups the Modi government had to face in its last 5 years.